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A Happy Halloween House
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
HOME FEATURE October/November 2018
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In a merry, not scary, way, Mary Ann Beatty celebrates a fun holiday.

In the past couple of decades, Halloween has come into its own. According to Hallmark, it’s one of the fastest-growing holidays for home decorating, both inside and out. It is surpassed only by Christmas. It also has become the third-largest party day in this country for both kids and adults. Only New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl Sunday are busier party days than Halloween.

Mary Ann Beatty of Des Moines would not be surprised by those trends. In fact, she has contributed mightily to the numbers. As one who loves to decorate her home, she has a particular fondness for Halloween. “I started teaching in 1976, and my cooperating teacher during my student teaching suggested that I ‘do all of it’ in terms of a Halloween theme. That meant books, bulletin boards, and finger plays. I really got into it and was hooked. I love Halloween.”

A proud shopaholic

Retired from a long career of elementary and middle school positions, many in Carlisle, she now substitutes occasionally. Christmas is still her favorite holiday, but Halloween is a close runner-up. Anyone who visited her classrooms knows how decorative and colorful she made her teaching surroundings. It’s just more fun for the students, she says. At Halloween she became Mrs. Batty; for St. Patrick’s Day she was Mrs. O’Beatty.

Mary Ann is an avowed shopaholic, both in stores and online. That started in high school. “Got my dad a birthday card once that said, ‘To the king of the hill from the queen of the mall.’ He loved it,” she says. She says her mother was a minimalist to the extreme, so Mary Ann is not sure where her obsession came from.

Mary Ann scours crafts shops, fabric stores, and department stores year-round for supplies. Many have after-holiday markdown bins, so she purchases trims and decorations a year ahead.

The front of her home sets the tone. A black bench features pumpkin faces with ribbon curls for hair. A pumpkin in a witch’s hat and a spider greet visitors by the front door, which is decorated with an ominous witch face.

Seasonal changes

Inside her home it’s hard to know where to focus first. The fireplace mantel has a slightly formal flair with a black feather tree, silver pumpkins, and a sparkly skull. A little bling, even if it’s spooky, never hurts!

A small model of a conservatory sits atop a table in the living room. Mary Ann decorates the inside of it with seasonal miniatures for various holidays during the year. The dining room table is laden with Halloween goodies, including a black wreath with gold ornaments, a green slime hand, a copper skull, shiny silver pumpkins, and bright ceramic BOO letters in stripes and polka dots.

The nearby family room also has its spooky pleasures: a lighted twig tee, a felt black cat, letters spelling out WICKED, and a glittery witch’s shoe.

Pumpkin fairy

Among her decorations is a lot of Mary Ann’s own handiwork. Some of her friends call her the pumpkin fairy. She paints and decorates nearly 40 pie pumpkins each year and leaves them on the front porches of many people. She spray-paints the pumpkins in various colors—black, purple, red, gold, turquoise, and even hot pink. The pink pumpkins are for nurse friends who work with cancer patients, especially during October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. She uses stick-on diamond letters that spell BOO, spiders, other holiday motifs, and colorful ribbons around the stems.

The Halloween enthusiast has been known to embellish pumpkins with University of Iowa and Iowa State University colors and designs, too.

Her children—son, Sam, and his wife, Kayla, of Washington, Iowa; and daughter, Alexandra, and her husband, Tom, of Coralville; and four grandchildren are used to her decorative obsessions.

“It’s so fun,” says Mary Ann. “I just love piddling.”

Mary Ann’s husband, Mike, gently smiles and rolls his eyes at his wife’s hobby. He knows what’s coming next. Christmas.


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